EMTs have incredibly difficult and stressful jobs. They may go long stretches with little to do, and then be suddenly very busy, very fast. They need to know how to calm down a child with a broken arm, treat a woman pinned in a truck in a massive interstate pileup during a snowstorm, and deal with a potential elderly stroke victim. They are like an ER on wheels. In rural communities, they are a lifeline between people in their communities and the hospital that may be hours away.
Now, I don’t want to belittle interior designers. I imagine it can be stressful dealing with clients who keep changing their minds, keeping under budget on big jobs and knowing the difference between toile, sateen and silk when choosing curtains. But interior designers aren’t typically involved in saving lives. (Unless it’s something like, “Thank goodness! You got my wife’s chaise lounge reupholstered before her birthday party – you’re a lifesaver!”)
So, why is it easier to become an EMT than an interior designer? That’s the question posed by Jared Meyer and Savannah Saunders. It seems that the state of Florida is blaming interior designers for 88,000 deaths per year. They need oversight. They need regulation. They need big government.
In all the states that license interior designers, it is easier to become a licensed emergency medical technician (EMT), an occupation that requires workers to literally hold lives in their hands. Louisiana, for example, will only grant a license once a prospective designer completes four years of college (with a focus on interior design) and obtains two years of design experience. Additionally, interior designers are required to pass the lengthy NCIDQ [National Council of Interior Design Qualification] exam, which costs $1,200, and pay $150 in licensing fees. In comparison, it only takes three to four months of training to become an EMT in Louisiana. The skill sets and levels of risk associated with these two occupations are clearly out of sync with the levels of licensing requirements.
I don’t know about you, but I’d be a whole lot more worried about the testing/licensing of a person who has to know how to save an arm or leg than a person who has to save a chair inherited from Aunt Millie. But that’s big government for you: the issue is not safety, but political “logic:”
A recently-published report conducted by President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors stresses the argument that most occupational licensing protects established practitioners, not public safety. The report recommends reforming occupational licensing laws and instituting a rational, cost-benefit approach to regulation that would ‘improve economic opportunity and allow American workers to take advantage of new developments in today’s economy.’
As Meyer and Saunders point out, this isn’t about quality, but control. No one is really worried about the safety issues involved in interior design. What some are worried about is control, or what we might call a “monopoly.”
Interior design licensing laws limit the supply of service providers. By artificially lowering supply, the price of design services rises. Designers benefit through higher wages, but consumers and young designers who desire to break into the industry pay the price.
Ultimately, over-zealous licensing laws hurt the poor. For instance, there are many blacks in the U.S. who make a bit of money braiding hair. Technically, most states require hair-dressers to be licensed, but these are folks who are charging family and friends a few bucks on the weekends to get their hair braided. They are not running salons. Yet 12 states regulate this, creating what amounts to – in many cases – a tax on the poor. And that means folks in those 12 states are breaking the law and face stiff penalties if they braid hair on their front porch and charge money for it.
If hair braiding and interior design require government oversight, what doesn’t?